Vanilla Essential Oil

Vanilla essential oil benefits and uses

Vanilla Essential Oil

Vanilla essential oil is extracted from fermented pods of the vanilla orchid vine

There are three types of vanilla essential oil*, which are:

  • extracted from Vanilla planifolia, sometimes labelled Bourbon vanilla,
  • extracted from V. pompona, sometimes labelled West Indies vanilla, and
  • extracted from V. tahitensis (which is not often used, due to the low vanillin content), sometimes called Tahitian vanilla.

You may also come across an oil called Mexican vanilla, which is also extracted from V. planifolia like Bourbon vanilla, but unfortunately is often adulterated with oil from the tonka bean (which contains coumarin, a dangerous substance which can cause damage to the liver amongst other things), so anything with the label Mexican vanilla is best avoided.

Vanilla is a vine in the Orchid family. All three types of vanilla plant are closely related, and production of the vanilla pods from which the oil is derived requires careful attention, involving fermentation for 6 months in order to develop the actual vanilla flavour/fragrance.

How vanilla essential oil is produced

Though you may see pages which purport to tell you how to make your own vanilla essential oil, what you actually get by following the instructions is not essential oil but more like some of the cheap (fake) vanilla essential oils on the market. Technically it is an infusion or maceration, not an essential oil.

*In fact, although there is a vanilla resinoid (produced by solvent extraction from cured vanilla beans), what is sold by reputable aromatherapy suppliers as “essential oil” is either the absolute (which requires further extraction from the resinoid) or a diluted absolute. Given that vanilla itself is the second most expensive spice (after saffron), the absolute is far too expensive for most of us to consider, which is why it’s normally sold diluted. However, although not technically an essential oil, that’s what most people call it so from here on that is how I will be referring to it in this post.

Due to its high price and the length and complexity of its production, vanilla essential oil is one of those oils that are often counterfeit. This sham vanilla oil might be an oil infusion, or some vanilla extract diluted in a carrier oil, or even a completely synthetic oil – which may smell ok, but will not have any of the healing properties of the genuine article and might be actively dangerous. So if you see vanilla oil that seems inexpensive – or you find it on the shelves of a pound shop or grocery store, you can pretty much assume that it’s fake.

Properties of Vanilla Essential Oil

Vanilla oil is antibiotic, anticarcinogenic (particularly for prostate and colon cancers), antidepressant, antifungal (active against Candida albicans and Cryptococcus neoformans), anti-nausea, antioxidant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, balsamic, emmenagogue, febrifuge, mood enhancing, mosquito repellent, relaxant, a sedative and tranquiliser.

Uses of Vanilla Essential Oil

Because of its property as an emmenagogue, vanilla oil is not suitable for use by pregnant women in the first trimester, and therefore cannot be used for morning sickness.

If using the absolute for massage etc., dilute in a suitable carrier oil at a rate of 5 drops to each 10ml of carrier. You may prefer to use this dilution for oil burners as well.

For use in the bath, mix 3-4 drops of the oil with a little milk to form an emulsion and stir in to the water once the bath is ready. Please be careful when using essential oils in the bath, and bear in mind when getting in and out that it will make the area more slippery than usual.

Vanilla can be used for massage to fight depression, ease stress, calm the mind and increase libido. It’s also helpful for relieving muscle and joint pain, cramped muscles or cramps associated with menstruation, to reduce inflammation and strengthen the immune system. It can be used direct on acne, eczema, itching, burns, cuts and inflamed skin to soothe, promote healthy skin, to reduce cellulite and also on the scalp to encourage hair growth. It’s also beneficial for regulating menstruation.

It can be used in a burner, electric diffuser or in the bath for stress, nervous tension, insomnia, coughs and other respiratory problems. It is said to encourage sweet dreams if used in the bedroom, as well as having a reputation as an aphrodisiac. Diffused vanilla oil is a mosquito repellent, which makes it very helpful in bedrooms in countries where mosquitoes are a problem. To avoid the danger of fire while you sleep, you could use an electric diffuser or put the oils onto a cloth which is laid over a radiator instead of using a candle-based oil burner.

I offer Vanilla Essential Oil in my online shop.


Common or garden thyme in flower

Thyme health benefits: a truly multi-purpose herb

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Common or garden thyme in flower

Common or garden thyme in flower

(A video containing the main points outlined here is available here)

The thyme I am talking about here is Thymus vulgaris, the common or garden thyme. It’s a low growing, fairly tough plant that likes a sunny situation. It comes in the standard green leafed and also in variegated forms, which some people consider to be more attractive, but the important thyme oil (which is the source of all thyme’s goodness) is found in both.

Thyme is closely related to lemon thyme, but not to basil thyme.

Remember that if you want to use thyme medicinally it’s important that it is grown organically so that its properties are not masked and you don’t end up ingesting toxic ingredients (such as pesticides), by accident. Sow seed in Spring or divide existing stock in Spring. Plants will layer if mulched in Fall. Cut back in June for a second crop. Pick leaves as required for culinary use, with the main harvest in early June and late August.

Like most herbs, once it is established, it doesn’t like to be moved, although you will probably get away with it if you are moving it to a new position it likes. You will have to water it regularly in dry spells until it starts to put on new growth, showing that the roots have got over the shock of the move. Unless your area suffers from extremely cold winters, it should be perfectly happy to let you pick a few sprigs all year round, although if you want to get the highest concentration of oil, you should harvest as much as you can just before the flowers open.

Thyme is one of those herbs that begs to be touched. Get down close to it and crush a few leaves to savor its rich meaty fragrance. It’s easy to see why it makes such a good herb for meat dishes, particularly beef. You can even use it instead of oregano or marjoram in Italian food, if you like. The fresh herb is so rich, you may prefer to dry it by hanging it up in bunches somewhere with a good air flow and not too humid for culinary use, after which you should strip the leaves off the branches and store them in an airtight jar.

Fresh or dried thyme makes an unusual and tasty tea – use about 1 teaspoon of fresh leaves, or half as much of the dried ones per cup. Make it in a pot and allow the herb to steep in the boiling water for 5-10 minutes before straining it into a cup. You can add a little honey to sweeten it, if you like. Herbal teas are generally not served with milk. (If you are pregnant, please see note below).

Medicinal uses for Thyme

Thyme is an excellent herbal medicine for digestive and respiratory disorders, it’s an anti-fungal, is useful for treating infections (both viral and bacterial), is antiseptic, expectorant, and can be used as a general tonic.

Before you read further it’s important for you to know that thyme should not be used in large amounts, for example for tea or as a herbal remedy, by pregnant women. A little bit used in cooking will do no harm, but for medicinal purposes, you will be using rather more than a pinch.

To make a standard infusion, put 3-4 teaspoonfuls of fresh leaves or 1-2 teaspoonfuls of dried into a pot and add 250ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) of boiling water. Leave to stand for 5-10 minutes and strain into a cup. The infusion does not have to be drunk all in one go, but can be sipped slowly over an hour or so. It can be used hot or cold (probably cold would be best for gargling or as a mouthwash, and hot would be helpful for coughs and catarrh).

Taken internally the standard infusion is very helpful for respiratory complaints, specifically for asthma, catarrh, bronchitis and other coughs, and laryingitis. It may also be used as a gargle for sore throats, tonsillitis, etc and as a mouthwash for bad breath and/or gum disease (gingivitis).

The same infusion is also helpful in cases of indigestion, diarrhea and gastritis, and is good for chills, as it has a warming effect. It can also be used externally as a wash for fungal infections, and can be used to make a warm compress for sore throats and tonsillitis. A compress is a clean cloth which is soaked in the infusion and then applied to the area. For a warm compress, the infusion should cool a little before use.

A steam inhalation is helpful in cases of tonsillitis, catarrh and general infections, also to help relieve muscle fatigue for ME sufferers. You can either use a few drops of the essential oil (bought in) or a good handful of fresh herb. Put the oil or crushed herb into a big flat bowl of boiling water and lean over it, covering both your head and the bowl with a towel to help keep the steam in. Another way is to have a hot steamy bath with the oil or herbs added to the water. In this case, put the herbs inside a muslin bag or similar, so that you don’t get covered in little bits of it.

Thymol, the pink mouthwash used by dentists, was originally made from thyme. To make a mouthwash for general use, make a half-strength infusion (2 tsp fresh leaves or 1 tsp dried to 250ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) of boiling water), leave to stand for 15-20 minutes, strain and use cold – the whole cupful, one mouthful at a time.

To make a poultice using fresh herbs, you just process them in a food processor to make a pulp. For dried herbs, you need to add hot water and process to a similar state. Wrap the herbs in a piece of gauze and apply to the area. Ideally, this should be as hot as you can bear, so if you’re using fresh herbs, dip the poultice in a bowl of hot water before applying. You can keep refreshing it with the hot water and re-applying it to the area being treated when it cools down too much.

Aromatherapy

For those with children at school, a bottle of dilute thyme oil (add a few drops to a bottle of sweet almond oil) in the cupboard can be used to deter headlice (cooties) – just comb a few drops of the mixture through the hair night and morning. An attack of ringworm (tinea) can be treated with thyme cream applied 3-4 times a day to the affected area. Thyme essential oil is very strong and should not be used apart from the two purposes outlined in this post except by a professional aromatherapist.

I offer various thyme products including essential oil in my online shop.

Like all plants grown for medicinal use, thyme should be grown organically to avoid nasty chemicals ending up in your remedies. Visit the Gardenzone for more information about growing organic thyme.


Flowers of the frankincense or olibanum tree

Frankincense health benefits: ancient antibacterial and antifungal

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Flowers of the frankincense or olibanum tree

Flowers of the frankincense or olibanum tree

Frankincense, Boswellia sacra syn. B. carteri and  undulato crenata, is also called the olibanum tree and ru xiang shu. It is a tender tree, usually with multiple stems, which reaches a height of 8m (25′). It requires full sun and prefers an alkaline soil.

The resin was one of the gifts given to the infant Jesus Christ by the wandering magi, and it has traditionally been used in (high) churches and other places of worship as a fumigant. It is still used in religious rituals by Parsees. It was also one of the ingredients used in the Temple incense described in the Bible. It is also used in perfumery and to contribute fragrance to pot pourri.

Frankincense is a tree with an ancient history going back into the mists of time. This is appropriate, as it grows naturally in “fog oases” in desert areas like Oman, Yemen and other parts of the Arabian peninsula, though it is cultivated in other parts. It will not tolerate frost, so can only be grown outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 10 and 11 or warmer places. However, it can be grown in a container in a frost-free conservatory/sun room, and given some air in the warmer months of the year.

The resin (which is also called frankincense) is collected by making 5cm (2″) slashes in the bark (being careful not to ring the tree) and scraping off what accumulates after it has hardened for about two weeks, then storing for a further 12 weeks before use. The lighter the color, the better quality it is.

It is not the most attractive plant, but does have peeling bark a bit like the paper birch, and would make a good conversation piece, especially at Christmas time.

Frankincense is antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer.

Powdered frankincense can be made into a paste and used to treat wounds.

In Arab communities, frankincense resin is chewed (like chewing gum) for gastrointestinal complaints, for mouth and gum infections and to strengthen teeth and gums. NB: Do not swallow, as this may lead to stomach problems.

All trees prefer organic treatment, and if you’re planning on using any part of a tree for medicinal purposes (or even just to eat) it’s definitely preferable to cultivate with organic-approved materials, rather than risking potentially toxic chemicals from affecting the resulting crop.

Aromatherapy

NB: Frankincense essential oil should not be used by pregnant women (except during labor) or children under 6 years. It is antiseptic and is used for respiratory conditions including asthma, bronchitis and other coughs and colds, for mature, dry or wrinkled skin and to remove scars. It is also used as a uterine tonic, for heavy periods, to induce menstruation (emmenagogue) and as a birthing aid.

As with all essential oils, frankincense essential oil should never be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

This post is a slightly adapted extract from “Sacred Herbs for Healing”, which is a Kindle book. If you’d like to get your own copy (or borrow it free if you’re an Amazon Prime member) please go to Sacred Herbs for Healing.


Rose geranium is the plant usually used for geranium essential oil extraction

Geranium essential oil, benefits and uses

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

Rose geranium is the plant usually used for geranium essential oil extraction

Rose geranium is the plant usually used for geranium essential oil extraction

As with all essential oils, geranium oil should never be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

Geranium essential oil is offered in two types. Rose geranium oil (which you will often find called just geranium essential oil), Pelargonium graveolens, is the one most easily sourced, and also the most expensive. You may also find a product called geranium essential oil which is actually the essential oil of the apple geranium, Pelargonium odoratissimum. This is cheaper, but also does not have all the same properties.

Both types are extracted from the leaves and stalks of the appropriate plant by steam distillation, and range in color from colorless through to a light green. They are quite thin oils, so care must be taken when using them not to add too much to your carrier oil or other base by accident.

Cautions: Do not use either type of geranium essential oil during pregnancy or on sensitive skin. Not suitable for use by diabetics or anyone else who suffers from hypoglycemia. Not suitable for use on children under 1 year old. Avoid use when studying or taking exams, as it may lower concentration.

As already mentioned, the two types have different properties.

Rose geranium essential oil is often used for skin care both for dry and oily skins; it’s astringent, so it balances sebum production while simultaneously soothing and softening the skin, and is helpful for treating acne, eczema and psoriasis. Because of its antiseptic and cytophylactic (promotes healing) properties, it’s also useful for cuts, burns and external ulcers and its antifungal qualities make it an excellent topical treatment for candida (thrush) and other fungal conditions. It’s also styptic – which means it helps to stop bleeding.

Rose geranium oil’s balancing properties aren’t just restricted to the skin. It also helps to balance the mind, emotions and hormonal system. Of course, though conventional medicine tends to treat these as entirely separate, in fact they are quite closely interlinked. We all know how our emotions seem to affect everything, and PMS (a hormonal condition) is well known to cause severe dysfunction both of mental and emotional health. It’s no surprise, then, that this oil works to relax, reduce anxiety/depression and stress, stabilize the emotions and restore mental balance. As a hormonal regulator, it is useful for treating menopausal problems, menorrhagia (heavy periods) and PMS.

And that’s not all. Rose geranium oil is also an adrenal stimulant, deodorant, diuretic (useful in treating edema), a lymphatic stimulant, and a good general tonic and detoxing agent. It can be used to treat gallstones and jaundice (only after consultation with your regular physician) and cellulite. Finally, it is a lice (cootie) repellent, mosquito repellent, general insect repellent and anti-parasitic.

Phew.

I offer rose geranium essential oil and organic rose geranium essential oil in my online shop as well as a range of other products derived from them.

Apple geranium essential oil has many, but not all, of the same properties (and a few extra ones of its own): acne, adrenal stimulant, anxiety, astringent, improves circulation, cytophylactic (promotes healing), diuretic, deodorant, dry skin, eczema, edema, hemorrhoids, hormone regulator, lice repellent, lymphatic stimulant, menopause, mental balance, mosquito repellent, neuralgia, oily skin, PMS, skin care, stress, styptic (stops bleeding), tonic, ulcers, vermifuge (anti-parasitic), vulnerary (treats cuts and wounds).

For most of these conditions, use geranium oil diluted in the usual way either directly on the area to be treated or for massage, or add 4-5 drops to your bath. For emotional and mental difficulties, it can also be used in an oil diffuser.


There are many varieties of eucalyptus oil

Eucalyptus essential oil, benefits and uses

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

There are many varieties of eucalyptus oil

There are many varieties of eucalyptus oil. This is E. citriodors

Eucalyptus oil is a misleading label, because there are in fact several different kinds of eucalyptus essential oil extracted from various species of eucalyptus tree.

The five types you are most likely to come across are the Blue Gum, the Broad Leaved Peppermint, the Narrow Leaved Peppermint, the Lemon Scented Eucalyptus and the Lemon Scented Ironbark. Any of these (and others) may be sold labeled simply eucalyptus oil. This is unfortunate, as the different types don’t all have the same properties.

Some properties are common to all four types of eucalyptus essential oil. All are antifungal, antiseptic, antiviral, expectorant and can be used to treat congestion (catarrh), coughs, colds, flu and other viral infections, aches and pains, rheumatism, cuts and wounds.

As with all essential oils, none of the oils mentioned in this post should be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

Blue Gum Eucalyptus is extracted from Eucalyptus globulus, one of the tallest trees in the world. There is a tree in Tasmania recorded at 90.7m (or more than 297 feet) in height! Like all eucalyptus, these trees are native to Australia, although most of the cultivation for commercial use is in Spain and Portugal.

Additional properties listed for Blue Gum are as an analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, deodorant, insect repellent, soothing agent and vermifuge used to treat asthma, blisters, burns, catarrh, chicken pox, cystitis, debility, headaches, herpes, insect bites, leucorrhea, lice, measles, neuralgia, poor circulation, sinusitis, skin infections, sore throats and external ulcers.

I offer Eucalyptus (blue gum) essential oil and organic Eucalyptus (blue gum) essential oil in my online shop.

Broad Leaved Peppermint Eucalyptus is an extract of Eucalyptus dives and is sometimes referred to as dives eucalyptus. The tree is much smaller than the blue gum and most cultivated trees are produced in South Africa.

It is no longer generally used medicinally except by veterinarians. However, it can be used for broadly the same uses as blue gum.

Lemon Scented Eucalyptus is an extract of Corymbia citriodora (formerly called Eucalyptus citriodora), which reaches the same sort of height as the narrow leaved peppermint. Cultivated trees are mainly grown in China and Brazil.

In addition to the properties common to all four, it is bactericidal, insecticidal, an insect repellent and is used to treat asthma, athlete’s foot, candida, chicken pox, dandruff, fevers, fungal infections, herpes, infectious diseases, laryngitis, skin infections, sore throats and specifically to treat Staphylococcus aureus (“Staph“).

I offer Eucalyptus citriodora (Lemon-scented) Essential Oil in my online shop.

Narrow Leaved Peppermint Eucalyptus is extracted from Eucalyptus radiata, which is tall (up to 5om), but doesn’t reach the same heights as the blue gum. This was the tree from which eucalyptus oil was first extracted by Joseph Bosisto in 1854, though it is less frequently used nowadays.

In addition to the common properties listed earlier, it is anti-infectious, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antispasmodic and can be used to treat bronchitis, fever, herpes, nervous exhaustion, poor circulation, sinusitis and sore throats. It’s also listed in at least one place to treat whooping cough but it must be stressed that in this case it should only be used as an addition to orthodox medical treatment, as this is a serious disease which requires immediate medical attention. Narrow leaved peppermint is also said to be supportive and uplifting and can be used as a concentration aid, to improve mental clarity and promote a positive outlook.

I offer Eucalyptus radiata (narrow-leaved peppermint) essential oil and organic Eucalyptus radiata (narrow-leaved peppermint) essential oil in my online shop.

Lemon-Scented Ironbark Eucalyptus essential oil comes from Eucalyptus staigeriana. It is uplifting to both mind and body, a natural immune system booster. Use in blends to boost the immune system, for wounds, abscesses, burns, external ulcers, veruccas (plantar warts), insect bites and for muscle, nerve and joint pain. Use in a burner or diffuser to gain the benefit of its uplifting, antidepressant and stress-relieving qualities. It is safe for use with children.

Eucalyptus oils should always be mixed with a carrier before using them on the skin. They can also be used in an essential oil diffuser, a steam inhalation, or a few drops can be added to a bath after it has been filled. Never take eucalyptus oils internally except as part of a prescribed medication.

Eucalyptus oil deserves a place in every home, and the choice of variety is up to you. Blue gum is the most frequently offered, but you may want to choose one of the others if available from your supplier, for the additional properties which it confers.


Helichrysum aka Immortelle and Everlasting

Helichrysum essential oil, benefits and uses

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

Helichrysum aka Immortelle and Everlasting

Helichrysum aka Immortelle and Everlasting

Unlike many other sources of essential oil, the helichrysum plant is not used in herbal medicine, though helichrysum oil is extremely useful therapeutically.

The plant is Helichrysum italicum (syn. H. angustifolium), a very attractive evergreen shrub sometimes used for hedging or as everlasting flowers. It has a strong curry scent, and is often called the curry plant for this reason, though the essential oil smells entirely different – more like honey.

As with all essential oils, helichrysum oil should never be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

In aromatherapy, you may find helichrysum referred to as Immortelle, St John’s Herb and Everlasting or Italian Everlasting.

Helichrysum essential oil is extracted from the fresh flowers or flowering tops of Helichrysum italicum ssp. serotinum. Check the source, and only buy if it is from Corsica, as this is far more effective than oil from other places. It is one of the safer essential oils, as it is non-toxic, non-irritant and non-sensitizing.

Helichrysum oil is antibacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal which makes it valuable for any rash, acne, eczema, skin infection, dermatitis and other allergic conditions, spots, abscesses and boils, and it’s also helpful for burns and inflammation of any kind. Some call it the boxer’s essential oil, but really it is a must for any athlete because it is so useful for bruises, cuts, wounds, sprains, strained muscles and other muscular aches and pains, including rheumatism. There’s also anecdotal evidence of its amazing ability to speed healing of broken bones.

Helichrysum’s antibacterial and anti-viral properties make it an ideal massage oil for bacterial infections, respiratory problems, colds, flu, fever, bronchitis, COPD and whooping cough. It also works well in cases of depression, debility, weakness, lethargy, nervous exhaustion, neuralgia and stress related conditions.

Helichrysum essential oil is one of the safest and most useful essential oils, and well worth including in any home aromatherapy kit, from beginner to professional.

I’m very please to offer helichrysum essential oil in my online shop.


Difficult to grow outside Australia, but this one grows in Menton, France

Tea tree oil health benefits: sovereign First Aid remedy

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Difficult to grow outside Australia, but this one grows in Menton, France

Difficult to grow outside Australia, but this one grows in Menton, France

Tea tree, Melaleuca alternifolia, is also known as ti tree, narrow-leaved paperbark, narrow-leaved tea-tree, narrow-leaved ti-tree or snow-in-summer. The lemon tea tree, Leptospermum petersonii, New Zealand tea tree/manuka, Leptospermum scoparium, are related, but not closely. Manuka is said to be of little medicinal value (manuka honey is a different story). Tea tree is not related to the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) at all.

Tea tree is a plant native to Queensland and New South Wales, Australia which is difficult to grow elsewhere because the conditions it likes are generally difficult to provide. It is a small tree which can reach a height of around 20 feet (6m). It requires moist, well drained, acid to neutral soil. It is not hardy.

Tea tree is only used as an essential oil and as an additive to, eg. tea tree shampoo and other bath and body products. Often used as a treatment for acne, it is very useful and should be in everyone’s medicine cabinet as it is antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiseptic and antiviral. It should never be used internally (although it’s ok as an ingredient in toothpaste, which after all most people don’t swallow in large amounts).

teatree-infographic-sm

Click for larger image

As with all essential oils, tea tree oil should never be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

I offer various tea tree products in my online shop.

It isn’t practicable to extract essential oil at home, although you can make a fake oil by maceration of the leaves in carrier oil (eg. sweet almond oil or light olive oil) which could be used as a hair treatment for cooties, for example. To make an oil maceration, fill a plain glass jar with as many roughly chopped fresh tea tree leaves as will fit, cover with the carrier oil and add a tablespoonful of spirit vinegar (not malt vinegar) or vodka to act as a preservative. Cover and shake well, then stand on a sunny windowsill for 2-3 weeks, shaking well every day. When finished, strain off the herb and discard, transfer the oil to a dark colored glass container and store in a cool place. Use within 6 months.


Orange essential oils, benefits and uses

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

There are several different orange essential oils

There are several different orange essential oils

You might think that orange essential oil is just one oil, but in fact there are several different oils that could be called orange essential oil. These are: bitter orange oil, sweet orange oil, neroli (sometimes called orange blossom) essential oil, petitgrain essential oil and bergamot essential oil. Each of these has a different set of properties.

As with all essential oils, none of the orange oils should be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

Bitter Orange essential oil
This is extracted from the outer peel of Citrus aurantium var. amara, sometimes called the Seville orange or sour orange, when they are almost ripe. You might know this as the orange used for making marmalade, and you may have seen them offered in the market under the name marmalade orange.

Bitter orange oil is an astringent, a natural antiseptic, and has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. It’s also useful for digestive disorders and as a tonic.

Bitter orange essential oil is not suitable for use with babies under one year old.

Phototoxic: don’t use on skin that will be exposed to the sun or tanning beds in the following 48 hours.


Sweet Orange essential oil

This is extracted from the outer peel of Citrus sinensis (syn. C. aurantium dulcis), what we might call the eating orange. The blood orange is a variety of sweet orange with red staining to the flesh and skin.

Like bitter orange, sweet orange oil has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and is useful for digestive disorders and as a tonic. It’s also used as an antidepressant.

Phototoxic: don’t use on skin that will be exposed to the sun or tanning beds in the following 48 hours.

I offer sweet orange essential oil and organic sweet orange essential oil in my online shop.

Neroli essential oil
Also called orange blossom essential oil, this is extracted from the flowers of Citrus aurantium var. amara, the bitter orange (see above for more on the tree).

Neroli oil is extremely useful and would be a good addition to a home aromatherapy and/or beauty kit. On the skin care side, it’s used to treat mature and sensitive skin, wrinkles, stretch marks, minor scars, thread veins and as a toner. It’s also used to treat digestive disorders such as colic, flatulence (gas, wind), chronic diarrhea, and intestinal cramping; poor circulation; palpitations; pre-menstrual syndrome; anxiety/depression, nervous tension, shock and stress.

Neroli essential oil is not phototoxic, and is generally considered safe for all.

I offer 10% neroli essential oilpure neroli absolute essential oil and neroli hydrating gel in my online shop.

Petitgrain essential oil
This is extracted from the leaves and twigs of Citrus aurantium var. amara, the bitter orange (see above for more on the tree). You may also find petitgrain sur fleurs essential oil, which contains neroli. There are also similar oils extracted from leaves and twigs of lemon, mandarin, sweet orange and bergamot orange trees.

Petitgrain is a natural antiseptic and deodorant and is useful for acne, greasy hair and skin, to reduce perspiration, and as a toner for skin. It’s also used to treat indigestion and flatulence (gas, wind), insomnia, exhaustion and stress.

Petitgrain essential oil is not phototoxic, and is generally considered safe for all.

I offer petitgrain essential oil and organic petitgrain essential oil in my online shop.

Bergamot essential oil
Bergamot essential oil is extracted from the outer peel of Citrus bergamia. It is not related in any way to the herb bergamot used in herbal medicine, though the fragrance is similar.

Bergamot essential oil is a natural antiseptic and deodorant and is used for oily skin, acne, eczema, boils and similar eruptions; psoriasis; scabies; varicose veins; anxiety/depression and stress.

Always use rectified or bergapten-free oil for direct application to skin.
Bergamot essential oil is not suitable for use with children under 12 years old.
Phototoxic: don’t use on skin that will be exposed to the sun or tanning beds in the following 48 hours.

I offer bergamot essential oil, rectified (FCF) bergamot essential oil and organic bergamot essential oil in my online shop.


Horseradish was once a popular accompaniment for beef

Horseradish health benefits: for congestion and tumors

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Horseradish was once a popular accompaniment for beef

Horseradish was once a popular accompaniment for beef

Horseradish, Armoracia rusticana (and the following synonyms: Armoracia lapathifolia, Cochlearia armoracia, Nasturtium armoracia and Rorippa armoracia), is sometimes split into two words: horse radish. Apart from foreign ones, I haven’t been able to find any other names for this plant. As you can see, despite its ferocity, it’s quite an attractive plant particularly when in flower. There is also a variegated form with yellow streaked leaves, which to my mind looks as if it has some sort of disease, but to each his own.

It is one of the five bitter herbs which should be eaten at Passover in the Jewish religion (the others are coriander, horehound, lettuce and nettles).

Horseradish is in the same family as cabbage, cauliflower, mustard, turnips, swede and ordinary radishes – the brassica family (variously called Cruciferae and Brassicaceae). Because of this it cannot be grown on any land infested with club root, although its persistence makes it almost impossible to include in a rotation. It would probably be best, therefore, to designate a clean bed for permanent use as a horseradish bed, and take steps to isolate it to prevent invasion of the surrounding area.

It is a native of Europe, a hardy perennial which reaches a height of around 2’6″. It requires moist well-drained soil, but is otherwise unfussy as to type, even surviving in very alkaline soil. It will not grow in full shade.

Although the root is the part mostly used, the leaves are edible and generally used raw – very hot, so only add a little to your salad bowl until you are familiar with it. You will have to get them before the caterpillars do, anyway! But the most important product of this plant is the roots (inset in the picture), which are dug as required, and the remainder in Autumn after the foliage has died down (another good reason for designating a permanent position, as you’re unlikely to lose it). Try not to break the roots, which look a bit like parsnips or mooli radish. Leave a few pieces about 8 inches (20cm) long nicely spaced out for next year’s crop, and dig up and discard any woody roots you find.

John Lust gives this caution in his Herb Book: Do not take large quantities of horseradish at one time. Stop taking it if diarrhea or night sweating occurs.

Horseradish root can be stored in damp sand, apparently, but the traditional way is to grate it and store it in sealed jars with vinegar. Mash the root down as firmly as you can, then top off with whatever variety of vinegar you prefer. Some people add honey to this. In the UK, the results are served with roast beef as horseradish sauce, although in the US, horseradish sauce is made from grated horseradish mixed with mayonnaise which would make it a lot less pungent. Fresh British horseradish sauce must definitely be approached with caution, as even in small quantities it makes your eyes water and your nose run.

Horseradish is not just a pungent condiment, but is also antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-tumor. It is used internally for bronchial and nasal congestion, kidney and bladder problems, internal growths and tumors, gout and rheumatism and externally as a poultice (just wrap grated root in a thin bandage and apply) for arthritis and chilblains. Used externally, horseradish sometimes causes blisters. Discontinue use if this occurs.

There are various ways of preparing horseradish for medicinal use, but the simplest is just to put it in a sandwich. The addition of some beef would make it really nice! Alternatively, you can make horseradish vinegar by covering grated root with vinegar and leaving to stand for 10 days. Strain off and discard the root. The dosage is 1 tsp in water 2-3 times a day, sweetened with honey or sugar if preferred. Another option is horseradish syrup which is made by pouring 120ml (a half US cup, 4 fl oz) boiling water over 1 tsp horseradish root and standing for 2 hours. Strain off the root and discard, then add enough sugar to turn it into a syrup (you will probably need to heat it back up to dissolve the sugar). I don’t have a dosage for this, so you will need to experiment if you decide to use it.

Being a root, organic methods of cultivation are a must, as otherwise you may get unhealthy amounts of noxious chemicals mixed in with your remedies. To find out more about growing organic horseradish visit the Gardenzone.


European goldenrod is a useful anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal herb

Goldenrod health benefits: for candida and cystitis

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

European goldenrod is a useful anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal herb

European goldenrod is a useful anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal herb

Goldenrod, Solidago virgaurea (not to be confused with S. virgaurea asiatica, which is an old name for S. japonica, a species of little medicinal value), is also known as Aaron’s rod, Blue Mountain tea, European goldenrod, wound weed and woundwort. The latin name is sometimes mistakenly cited as a synonym for Solidago canadensis (the Canada goldenrod), which is incorrect. It is the most medicinally active of the goldenrod genus, which also includes the sweet goldenrod native to the USA and the Canada goldenrod, both of which are sometimes called just goldenrod, amongst others. It is not related to rose root (also sometimes called Aaron’s rod), tea (Camellia sinensis) or to lambs’ ears (also sometimes called woundwort).

Goldenrod is a hardy perennial which reaches a height of around 2 feet (60cm). It will grow in any soil, even heavy clay, but will not survive in full shade. It is propagated by seed sown in Spring or division in Spring or Fall.

Make a standard infusion using 30g (1 ounce) of flowering tops to 480ml (2 US cups, 16 fl oz) boiling water, leaving it to stand for at least 15 minutes (up to 4 hours) before straining for use. The dosage is up to 240ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) a day, split into 3 doses. It can be used internally as an anti-fungal, which works well with candida and both vaginal and oral thrush, as an anti-inflammatory, for urinary tract disorders including cystitis, nephritis, stones in kidney or bladder, and for nasal congestion, whooping cough and influenza. Goldenrod is a safe treatment for diarrhea in children. Externally it is a useful wound herb, acting both to staunch bleeding and disinfect the wound, and can also be used for skin infections, as well as treating thrush by douche or mouthwash as appropriate.

If you’re a regular reader, you will not be surprised that I recommend that goldenrod is grown organically to avoid corruption of its active constituents. To find out more about growing organic goldenrod visit the Gardenzone.